What To Do If You Forgot To Order Your Thanksgiving Turkey In Advance

When it comes to cooking, the majority of us will fall into one of two camps: Those who plan out each meal in detail, down to its very last garnish, and those who prefer to step into the kitchen without a plan and just wing it. While both groups can and do include excellent and accomplished cooks, there's no denying that when it comes to a big food holiday such as Thanksgiving, the detail-oriented among us have a better chance of pulling off a flawless meal.

Thanksgiving — especially if you're hosting the meal — tends to feature a variety of dishes, all of which have to compete for prep time and oven space that's long occupied by the big kahuna, the centerpiece roasted turkey. So even if you consider yourself more of an improvisational cook, this is the time of year to at least give the ol' college try at setting yourself up for Thanksgiving success by planning out the meal in an orderly way.

This might be sage advice if you've already got your turkey tucked away in the refrigerator or freezer. But if you haven't ordered a turkey yet, it might be too late to get your hands on one this week; especially if you're wanting to source a heritage or organic bird, notes Bon Appétit, you typically need to order it a full four weeks ahead of Thanksgiving to make sure you'll get the size you want.

Roast chicken, duck, or guinea hen is a great plan B

So you didn't order a turkey for Thanksgiving, and now you can't find even find one in stores. How to still host a smashing Turkey Day meal without the star bird? That's what we asked Christina Chaey, a writer, editor, and recipe developer who partnered with Kikkoman soy sauce this year to share Thanksgiving tips. So what's her take on this supposed tragedy? That it's really no big deal — just grab a pair of chickens instead.

"My suggestion would be to make a couple of roasted chickens," Chaey told Tasting Table. "They are always on regular rotation at the grocery store."

On her Instagram page, Chaey shared a recipe for a soy sauce-brined and -glazed turkey, which calls for Kikkoman soy sauce in both a 12-hour brine for the bird, as well as a maple syrup and orange zest glaze that gets served with it once cooked. The recipe will work just as well with chickens if that's what you're cooking up this week. 

Alternatively, if you'd prefer to serve something less run-of-the-mill than chicken, head to your butcher and see if they've got whole duck or guinea hen (a dark-meat bird whose flavor is comparable to pheasant). Either a crispy roast duck stuffed with fruit or a rosemary-brined guinea hen roasted under a thick cap of butter make equally festive Thanksgiving options that will wow your guests as much as (or even more than) a turkey would.